In medium post, Obama urges Israeli military to minimize harm to civilians

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Ahead of an expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military, former President Barack Obama spoke Monday about the deadly conflict in the Middle East. reiterating that Israel has the right to defend itself against violence such as terrorist attacks inflicted by the militant group Hamas, while warning that any Israeli military strategy “that ignores the human costs could ultimately be counterproductive.”

Israeli troops are massing around the Gaza Strip in preparation for a ground invasion that could involve intense urban fighting in the densely populated territory. The invasion comes weeks after Hamas attackers crossed into southern Israel, killing at least 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.

In more than 1,000 words. statement In an article published on the online site Medium, Obama said the dire humanitarian results of cutting off food, water and electricity in Gaza could “further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, make the play to Israel’s enemies and undermine long periods of time. long-term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

Obama advocated continued US support for Israeli efforts to persecute Hamas and backed Israel’s right to exist. At the same time, he urged the Israeli military to carry out strategies that respect “international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to the greatest extent possible, the death or suffering of the civilian population.”

“Even as we support Israel, we must also be clear that how Israel carries out this fight against Hamas matters,” Obama wrote. “Thousands of Palestinians have already died in the bombings of Gaza, many of them children.”

He also delved into the seemingly out-of-reach goal of ultimately creating a nation for the Palestinian people, calling for “recognizing that Palestinians have also lived in disputed territories for generations,” while criticizing Israeli settlers who are taking over the Palestinian territory. in the West Bank.

“That is the best and perhaps the only way to achieve the lasting peace and security that most Israeli and Palestinian families long for,” he said.

Some Palestinian leaders “who have been willing to make concessions for a two-state solution,” he added, “have too often had little to show for their efforts.”

Obama noted the trend in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of hardline Israelis widely accusing critics of the Jewish state of anti-Semitism. He said that while there should be no tolerance for anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian rhetoric, “it is possible for people of good will to defend Palestinian rights and oppose certain Israeli government policies in the West Bank and Gaza. without being anti-Semitic.”

Obama’s remarks reflect positions he took during and before his administration, while continuing to support a two-state solution to the long-running conflict. From the first days of his presidencyObama pushed for a tough stance on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, demanding that Israel halt all settlement activity to build momentum for peace.

As president, Obama tried intermediary in peace talks in 2013 but They collapsed shortly afterand has always had a icy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In his Medium post, Obama also endorsed the strategy that Biden and his top diplomatic and military advisers have begun to use to balance US support for Israel with concern for the well-being of Gaza civilians and worst-case scenarios. of a broader conflict in the Middle East. .

As The Washington Post reported this weekBiden and his administration have begun reminding Netanyahu that “democracies like Israel and the United States are stronger and safer when we act in accordance with the rule of law.”

Obama said it is understandable, in the wake of Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel, that “many Israelis have demanded that their government do whatever is necessary to root out Hamas and ensure that such attacks never happen again.”

But the former president noted that Hamas’s military operations “are deeply rooted in Gaza, and its leadership appears to intentionally hide among civilians, thereby endangering the very people they claim to represent.”

The former president said he considered Israel’s decision to allow relief trucks toward Gaza, a move pushed, in part, by the Biden administration, “an encouraging step,” but he said the international community must do more to speed up the delivery of critical aid.

On Saturday, aid trucks arrived in Gaza for the first time since the start of the war, entering through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing. Supplies of food, drinking water and fuel are dwindling in the Gaza Strip, where more than 2 million people face relentless airstrikes and an Israeli siege.

While Biden has strongly supported Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the president’s rhetoric has shifted in recent days as he seeks to draw a distinction between militants and Palestinian civilians.

The former president concluded his reflection with links to news, analysis and opinion pieces that, he said, provide “useful perspectives and background on the conflict.”

Abigail Hauslohner and Glenn Kessler contributed reporting.

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